Gamer's post-purchase add-ons, for short / SAT 11-18-23 / Certain descriptor after a signature nowadays / Brown-y points, for short? / Treatment for someone in transition, in brief

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Constructor: Hoang-Kim Vu

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: none 

Word of the Day: DLC (35D: Gamer's post-purchase add-ons, for short) —

Downloadable content (DLC) is additional content created for an already released video game, distributed through the Internet by the game's publisher. It can either be added for no extra cost or it can be a form of video game monetization, enabling the publisher to gain additional revenue from a title after it has been purchased, often using some type of microtransaction system.

DLC can range from cosmetic content, such as skins, to new in-game content such as characters, levelsmodes, and larger expansions that may contain a mix of such content as a continuation of the base game. In some games, multiple DLC (including future DLC not yet released) may be bundled as part of a "season pass"—typically at a discount in comparison to purchasing each DLC individually.

While the Dreamcast was the first home console to support DLC (albeit in a limited form due to hardware and internet connection limitations), Microsoft's Xbox console and Xbox Live platform helped to popularize the concept. Since the seventh generation of video game consoles, DLC has been a prevalent feature of most major video game platforms with internet connectivity.

Since the popularization of microtransactions in online distribution platforms such as Steam, the term DLC has become a [synonym] for any form of paid content in video games, regardless of whether they constitute the download of new content. Furthermore, this led to the creation of the oxymoronic term "on-disc DLC" for content included on the game's original files, but locked behind a paywall. (wikipedia)

• • •

The thing about DLC is, while you (or someone) might say "any gamer would know that," there's still the problem of non-gamers, and how in the world they would even begin to come at these three letters. It's the "Seemingly Random Three Letters" that is really the ugly, exclusionary part here. I think of all the garbage that clutters up the grid, so much of it 3-letter abbrs., and then I think "Why ... would you want to add to that?" Why would you want this Roman numeral-looking chunk of stray letters smack dab in the middle of your grid? Just because an answer is new (and this is, in fact, a debut answer) does not mean that it is "fresh" or "good." I do not mind learning new terminology, new slang, etc., but DLC is just ugly on its face—and the fact that its letters are barely inferable makes it uglier. I tried to figure out what the letters meant and the only thing I could come up with seemed way too vague to be right ... and yet it was. Downloadable Content. Where "Loadable" gets its own letter (?!). I don't think HRT (hormone replacement therapy) is great fill, but it's a thing anyone might have heard of, and its letters are reasonably inferable. Ditto CPU. I think SETI stands for Signs of Extraterrestrial Intelligence ... damn, it's "Search," not "Signs." Well, close enough. 

Look, I'm used to not knowing things. I'm reminded every day, with nearly every puzzle, that I don't know A Lot of Things. It's fine. It's normal. I mean, eventually I had to suck it up and learn SANSA, for god's sake. But DLC just feels worse than other Things I Don't Know because it's an ugly abbr. with uninferable letters. It's a type of answer that constructors should be trying to minimize, not highlight by putting it dead center. I have no idea what a FOAM PARTY is either, but at least I recognize the words FOAM and PARTY, and the answer at least sounds like something that might be interesting to learn about. DLC has none of these qualities. Even when you figure out what the letters stand for (I managed to guess right, but it felt like a wild guess) the term "downloadable content" hardly sparkles. It's got that bland dystopian businessspeak quality that seems to dominate so much tech-related discourse. The horrible thing is that, two years from now, DLC will appear again and I'll probably have this same "What Are Those Letters!?" reaction. I wrote this long-ass opening paragraph, in part, as insurance against just such an event. Will it work? I hope never to find out.

Let's look now at the other 190 letters in this grid. The central stack was not worth DLC, but it was pretty good. The COLUMNIST part of FOOD COLUMNIST made me roll my eyes and say "la di dah, looks like the food writer has bought himself a top hat and a monocle," but OK, sure COLUMNIST, if you insist. None of the rest of the grid was terribly exciting, though if I'd known what a FOAM PARTY was, maybe that would've been exciting. I like the SE corner of this grid a good deal. I wonder if VISUAL GAG was FOOD COLUMNIST's similarly socially aspirational date to this FOAM PARTY, because in the non-caviar world we call them "sight gags." Still,  that answer was acceptable, and CLAW GAME and "HOW WAS IT?" are fun and solid. 

Beyond DLC, nothing really grated, except maybe ZOOM HOST (1A: Modern meeting organizer). I had trouble with the HOST part, despite being one, technically, for over a year during the peak of the pandemic. This may explain my aversion to ZOOM content. I just don't want to think about ZOOM any more than I have to. Anyway, I didn't know "organizer" was supposed to be a person, so I had ZOOM MENU (!?) in there for a bit. I had PASS ON before PASS UP (21D: Turn down), and I really struggled to get HE/HIM because I don't exactly understand how "signature" is being used in the clue (22A: Certain descriptor after a signature nowadays). Is any appearance of your name considered a "signature" now? Because I've only seen pronouns typed out after a typed out name (online, on name tags, etc.). This clue probably means an “email signature.” I still think of "signature" as something done by hand. Stupid 20th-century me.

  • 50D: The 411 (DEETS) — The 411, the information, the details ... the DEETS
  • 28A: Brown-y points, for short? (TDS)
     — look, I'm just guessing here, but ... let's say Jim Brown? It's a weird clue, considering lots of Browns have been football stars. Antonio Brown, for instance, is a 7-time Pro Bowler. Tim Brown is in the Hall of Fame. Actually, I think the clue wants you to think of the team, the Cleveland Browns. "Brown-y points" is a pun that is both painful and unclear. 
  • 62A: Sessions of congress? (TRYSTS) — So, "sexual congress," as the kids say nowadays
  • 38D: Curing technique (DRY SALT) — "DRY-SALT" is a verb meaning "to cure or preserve (meat, hides, etc.) by drying and salting" ( "Dry curing" also appears to be a technique ... also involving salt ... and "dry brining," same ... they all seem like vaguely similar things? 
  • 47A: Leaves for lunch, maybe (SALAD) — ah, the "Leaves" pun in the SALAD clue. An oldie but a goodie.
  • 4D: Charybdis, for one (MAELSTROM) — whoo, this one is kinda hard! Everyone (give or take) is familiar with Scylla & Charybdis, but they're kinda used metaphorically. I don't think a Ton of thought is usually given to what *exactly* they are. I thought Charybdis was an underwater monster that *created* MALESTROMs (i.e. "large whirlpools capable of dragging a ship under water"). But wikipedia tells me that "In some variations of the story, Charybdis was simply a large whirlpool instead of a sea monster." So OK, I guess Charybdis = MAELSTROM does compute, then. See, I do like learning things! Destructive Like Charybdis! There's a DLC I can get behind.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Melrose 1:36 AM  

Not easy-medium for me. Took me forever to get started, then painfully slow to finish, but I got it all at last and am feeling very pleased with myself.

jae 1:38 AM  

Easy-medium. Pretty whooshy for a Saturday, especially the NW and SE. I finished in the NE where CASTLE and BEANIE took some effort. Me too for PASS on before UP which made DRAMATIC PAUSE tough to see in the center stack.

Mostly solid with a wee a bit of sparkle, liked it.

No idea on DLC and I second @Rex’s rant. A random roman numeral clue would have been preferable. Also did no know FOAM PARTY but at least I could visualize it.

Joe Dipinto 2:15 AM  

Caught between a Scylla and Charybdis

Well actually, Charybdis wasn't in the ocean, it was in the Strait of Messina between Sicily and the toe of Italy.

This puzzle wasn't too fun. I had to google the GOT daughter for the last two letters, and the institute that houses the Carl Sagan Center. (In doing so I found out that there is an unrelated thing called the Carl Sagan Institute at Cornell University.) Fortunately I was able to figure everything else out, but yeesh. Too many clues were just plain weird.

Ride the Reading 2:34 AM  

Another easyish outing here. A little longer than half average time for a Saturday. ZOOM HOST went in pretty quickly; ESCAROLE needed some crosses.

Central three long answers all needed help from downs. Had LEad instead of LEDE - and I work for the outfit. How about upping the degree of difficulty a bit, for Fridays and Saturdays?

Now waiting for F1 qualifying at Vegas. What are the odds on Christian Horner giving the finger to Ted Kravitz on live TV again?

Anonymous 3:16 AM  

Pretty sure the "signature" is supposed to be an email signature.

Anonymous 4:32 AM  

“I don't think HRT (hormone replacement therapy) is great fill, but it's a thing anyone might have heard of, and its letters are reasonably inferable.“

How in the world would anyone not already familiar with HRT intuit that?!

I agree that DLC is weak. With single-letter abbreviation strings, there is no way to infer anything. If you don’t know it, your only hope is by getting all the crosses. For that reason, abbreviation answers need to play more to knowledge of a regular NYT reader and not be so niche.

Conrad 5:27 AM  

@jae: I agree about a random Roman numeral clue for DLC, but it doesn't work; it's not a valid combination. It would represent 500 + (100-50) or 550, but that's just DL.

Natick at 2D x 23A. Not familiar with Compton or GoT.
Hand up for PASS on before UP at 21D plus the WOE DLC at 35D made the second part of FOOD COLUMNIST (37A) hard to see
Never heard of a FOAM PARTY (33D), but it was inferrable.
Fell into the trap at 39A, thinking a "Caribbean spirit" was a version of a ghost, genie, jinn or some such.

Anonymous 5:29 AM  

loved it! super fresh tone

Bagelboy 5:45 AM  

I had ZOOMPOST, which is perfectly reasonable if you don’t know HRT.

mathgent 5:46 AM  

Terrific piece of work! Chock full of sparkle. I had 18 red plus signs in the margin. Several clues worthy of Lewis's list. Not too easy at all for me. I learned some stuff, like FOAMPARTY.

A couple of annoyances, though. Brown-y points and FRUITIER. A shot of whiskey isn't fruity at all.

I remember calendars with PINUPS.

Adam 7:05 AM  

I had random answers until I hit the SW, then on to the SE and up through the middle to the NE; the NW quadrant gave me the most trouble today, and I still haven't watched GOT. DLC was a WOE, but the crosses fit so I ignored it--thanks for the explanation, @Rex. I enjoyed this more than OFL.

Also had PASS ON before PASS UP. Agree on FOAM PARTY as well--I mean, WTF? But here's the Wikipedia entry: "A foam party is a social event at which participants dance to music on a dance floor covered in several feet of suds or bubbles, dispensed from a foam machine." OK. I don't get invited to those kinds of social events--which is just as well. I probably would decline.

Not the best, not the worst. Mostly meh for me.

Son Volt 7:21 AM  

Tend to agree with @JoeD that the overall clueing voice here is off - trying far too hard to misdirect. Never liked the idea of FRIENDSGIVING, I make my pizzas on a steel, CLAW GAME is always a rip off and don’t remind me of ZOOM calls since we’re still knee deep in them post Covid.

The Big O

I do like ESCAROLE and DRAMATIC PAUSE. MAELSTROM was cool - but with the big guy on the reference. I was looking for sea - or some type of monster. Completely backed into DLC and OSHEA.

Still not sure on this one - definitely FRUITIER than Mossberg’s Stumper.


Danny 7:23 AM  

You cannot reasonably be fine with HRT and not fine with DLC.

Both are fine.

And that central stack was absolutely worth DLC.

This is a well made puzzle and, despite my not knowing a few things (like DLC), everything went right in. Very enjoyable.

I love MAELSTROM. The A next to the E next to the L always looks so pretty to me.

Anonymous 7:24 AM  

This was a Saturday PR for me, it took 21 minutes, that's my Tuesday average. My Saturday takes usually 46 minutes to 2 hours so what the heck? Easy? I had 1 hour 15 on yesterday's that one killed me

Lewis 7:36 AM  

Faith solve for me, all the way. Hold-ups in every corner, hold-ups in the center stack. Having faith that this is a clue-and-answer-fair puzzle, and that if I stick with it and give the brain space to mull behind the scenes, answer-pops will come.

Sweet Saturday crossword drama. Exuberance at getting five answers right off the bat in the NW; doldrums at still not being able to complete that corner, baffled by everything else. And so on through the grid.

But faith and persistence, and those blessed answer pops.

Sublime answers ESCAROLE, FRIENDSGIVING, DRAMATIC PAUSE, LET RIP, and MAELSTROM. Vexing vagueness, such as [Opens up, in a way], for BLOOMS. Devilish wordplay, such as [Start on a draft, say], for SIP. And bonuses, such as a pair of rare-in-crosswords five-letter palindromes (STATS, TENET). All housed in a gorgeous peaceful-feeling and flowy grid.

Lovely all around, Hoang, a prime Saturday. You are a talent, and thank you for this!

Jeopardy Jeff 7:44 AM  

I only found DLC on the crosses, but as those weren't problematic and not being a gamer, I shrugged and moved on. My trouble, and what delayed completion, was confusing vECTOR for SECTOR. Ugh. Otherwise a fine, easy-medium Saturday.

Ted 8:01 AM  

Sorry, but DLC is going to be easy and gettable, almost a gimme, for a whooooole chunk of the solving population at or slightly below Rex's age. At 45 years old, that is a well known term.

Plus, even if you leave it completely blank, it's entirely gettable from crosses. FRIENDSGIVING is perfectly placed for today, indeed this weekend is the time of many FRIENDSGIVINGS. We're going to one later today! DRAMATIC PAUSE is excellent and welcomed, too.

DLC may deserve a sentence about "I didn't know this term" but the paragraphs of weeping and rending your clothes are a bit much.

Anonymous 8:02 AM  

Are BEANIEs really so “common?”

Ted 8:03 AM  

... and then to give just a brief bullet point to Charybdis, after all of that sobbing over DLC?

My brother in Christ. That is some arcana there, and SUPER exclusionary. You will have a LARGE number of solvers (like myself) with no idea what it means. And then you base TWO clues on it??

Anonymous 8:04 AM  

Foam parties have been around for a couple decades, but I suspect there’s not a ton of overlap between people who do the NYTXW every day and people who attended them.

Iris 8:08 AM  

Not a fan of TDS, esp as I also couldn’t get Adidas easily. I really hate clues that want me to know advertising jingles and logos, two categories of knowledge I try not to absorb. Also, for “print sources, maybe” I had “news,” a better answer than “paws,” so it was hard to give up, and I kept thinking “chew game” because after all that dangling device does have teeth.

mmorgan 8:11 AM  

I first had FrAtPARTY, which made no sense, but I eventually got FOAM from crosses. Never heard of it. Just looked it up, yeow. The video at is scary, but the kids are sure having fun. (I need to learn how to paste in a linkable URL.)

DLC, blecch. But this was (mostly) a lightly challenging and agreeable Saturday.

SouthsideJohnny 8:16 AM  

Both FRIENDSGIVING and FOAM PARTY were new to me - they both seem like interesting concepts. For some reason I think it’s kind of appropriate that those silly CLAW GAMES don’t even have a real name - they’re just referred to in that generic, green-paintish sort of way, which seems entirely appropriate.

I also enjoyed the way Rex went totally bonkers due to the presence of a three letter fill that looks like gibberish and isn’t at all inferable - not realizing that someone like myself has the same experience with almost all of those weird looking concoctions in Urdu, Latin and some languages that I’ve never even heard of. Shows what a chasm there is between different levels of solving skill - even for someone fairly experienced like myself. Rex goes ballistic because he has to deal with unrecognizable gibberish once every six months - while I fight my way through it pretty much every day (save Mondays I suppose).

CyC 8:17 AM  

Here's a question--has anyone ever seen candy in a claw machine? Seems like it's always stuffed animals.

I knew DLC but immediately thought "uh oh no one who doesn't play games will know what that is." But overall I enjoyed this.

Charlotte 8:22 AM  

Thankfully DLC was a gimme when I asked my husband what it might be. I knew HRT immediately, and he knew DLC immediately. It's almost like experience and various pools of knowledge differ between people...what a concept!!!
I found this a little too easy...I finished 6 min faster than yesterday! And no googling necessary. I liked friendsgiving (going to one tomorrow!) and dramatic pause, but food columnist felt like a stretch (food critic sounds better to me).
I didn't know teal was named after a bird! Ya learn something knew every day, etc. etc.
Pass on before pass up, zoom room before zoom host, but overall, a quick fill.

Visho 8:22 AM  

Tried so hard to make "pregnant" pause work. Otherwise enjoyed the struggle. Like Lewis...just persevere until the light dawns.

Dr.A 8:31 AM  

I think there is always going to be things that some people KNOW and some people don’t. There’s often a lot of things I don’t know and have to fill in the hard way. Personally my gaming family loves DLC and it’s a fun event when it “comes out”.
Also was annoyed like one of the other commenters about Charybdis being in the OCEAN. Not technically true.

Anonymous 8:37 AM  

I knew DLC because I have kids and I was a gamer in a previous life. HRT would not have come to me. I suppose I find it surprising that NYTXW would normalize such a thing. A less harmful clue could have been “pituitary deficiency treatment for short”

Darren 8:37 AM  

I hated everything about this puzzle. Too many "inside" clues and just a slog. It really made the start to my Saturday a real downer.

Norm 8:41 AM  

Ugly and dumb with too much contrived junk.

Mack 8:44 AM  

Meh. DLC is no worse than any other initialism. As some have already mentioned, there's no good reason to be so opposed to DLC but think HRT and CPU are fine. I wonder (I'm not going to bother searching) if Rex has ever complained about RTE and whatever those "soldier transport boats" are. Or any random cable channel. And really, how is DLC any less inferable than some has-been 1940s B movie actor's last name?
Just a rant that smacks of pouting.

Is everyone a gamer or even someone who cares about games? Of course not. I'm not even a gamer. But not everyone knows which mascots belong to which third tier college abreviations either because not everyone cares about students wrestling over a pleather ball.
DLC is a huge topic of controversy in one of the largest industries in the world. It's like going off on GMO (another uninferable initialism) appearing in your puzzle.

Irene 8:45 AM  

A friend explained that since so many puzzles now are computer-generated, the only creativity left is in the cluing. Which means that if you're on the same wave-length as the constructor, you're OK. But if you're not? Then the result is this puzzle, which I got half finished, then came to a dead stop. Escarole and Yips were gimmees; HRT and Clawgame not at all. But I kicked myself for not getting Lede.

Twangster 8:49 AM  

Wow, this was definitely challenging for me but I did manage to solve it after about 30 minutes. Much of what I started out with turned out to be wrong, including LESTER for NOISES, on the Bangs clue.

kitshef 8:51 AM  

Remembered MAELSTROM from reading Journey to the Center of the Earth, oh, 50+ years ago.

Crossing an initialism with another initialism, or a difficult proper name, is bad. Crossing one with three long answers is fine. HRT, WWI, DLC, SOS, CPU, all fine.

I knew OSHEA, but OSHEA/SANSA is a good example of a bad cross.

Easy overall. Lots of misdirecting clues, but they were all easy to see through.

B Right There 8:54 AM  

Did this in almost half my average Saturday time despite agreeing that many clues felt like I had to think around three corners to follow the meaning. LOVED foam party! I actually was in one in a club in Destin Florida back in the early 90s! Fun! But you have to be careful ...the floor gets slippery. Only other head scratcher was 48D where the LEASH gets attached to a back pack. I thought they got attached to a harness to keep track of your kid. Or is this some other meaning/use? Like when kids' mittens have strings on them that run over the shoulders to keep them from getting lost? So you put a leash on the back pack so you don't leave it behind on the school bus, or something?

Anonymous 9:07 AM  

Charybdis was in the Mediterranean and, as Joe Dipinto noted, at the Straits of Messina to be precise. That is really poor editing. HRT? DLC? Why on earth would I compare a daiquiri and a shot of whiskey? Had BRINING for DRYSALT at first. Is dry salt really a thing? I get dry curing. I get the use of salt. But that phrase. I'm not sure about that at all.

Sam 9:11 AM  

I knew the term DLC. It’s a known term. I don’t get mad at the puzzle when there’s an operas character whose name I’ve never heard, or whatever. We all learn things from the puzzle. It’s fine. Doesn’t make it a bad puzzle.

Mark 9:12 AM  

I seem to be the only person here who found DLC to be a normal answer that was, yes, cryptically clued, but a real thing that I knew; and found HRT complete gobbledygook that I couldn’t infer and had to look up after finishing the puzzle

BlueStater 9:27 AM  

Good Lord.

pabloinnh 9:29 AM  

All I can say to all of you who found this easy is good for you. Scratching and clawing all the way here, and a technical DNF having POST for HOST, which will not cause me to lose any sleep.

We have DLC? SENSA? OSHEA someone? FOAMPARTY? I mean, really. And I was feeling smart for knowing DRYSALT and finally remembering CPU.

Some Stumper-type misdirects--looking at you "drove" for RAN and "keep" for CASTLE , you did not speed things up any. Just not enough Aha!'s to justify the WTF's for me.

Pretty sticky Saturday, HKV. Hard Keeping Very focused when you have to bounce around everywhere but thanks for some head-scratching fun.

Anonymous 9:47 AM  

DLC is so ubiquitous these days that it's familiar to even casual video game players ("gamer", to me, implies someone more hardcore). Seeing as just about anyone under 60 grew up with video games and a great number of them keep playing at least casually as adults, I don't think the niche is all that small anymore

RooMonster 9:49 AM  

Hey All !
Got stymied in the NW corner, the last area I was fighting with. Had to Goog for Charybdis, because, no, Rex, not everyone knows those two as sea monsters. Helped me get the two answers up there with that name in the clues.

Also holding me up, was Stir for STEP. Couldn't get the ole brain off STir. Erased that and STAB and the S of SIP, finally grokked that NW corner, saw 8D was TENET, which finally got me to see STEP. Put back my STAB and SIP, and Happy Music rained down.

A decently tough SatPuz, but not a frustratingly "I'll never finish this" feeling.

Kept thinking of AquaFresh toothpaste for the "Brand with three stripes" clue. Har.

Double Double W's in SE. DoubleU DoubleUs. 😁

What, pray tell, is a FOAM PARTY? Guess I'll Goog it ...
Interesting, you hire a Foam Company to fill your yard with foam bubbles, and frolic and play in them like a kid. Hopefully you don't end up with Foam Burgers...

Happy Weekend! (Save me a Foam Hot Dog)

Two F's

Gary Jugert 10:07 AM  

Looking forward to Sunday. The center stack here is quite lovely, but everything else was not so exciting. A FRUITIER FOAM PARTY sounds fun, but it's not a thing.

Pizzas should be cooked on stones, not on pans according to my wife who knows where our kitchen is in our house.

Tee-Hee: [Sessions of congress]! They are soo naughty down at NYTXW headquarters. {It's the fruitier foam parties.}


1 It was hot, it was sweaty, and it was nowhere near as good as the fruitier foam party.
2 Hosts fruitier foam party.
3 Fruitier foam party soundtrack.
4 Always one palm tree.
5 Fake flowers next to carefully curated bookshelves in the background.


My Fascinating Crossword Uniclue Keepsake from Last Year: Legal precedents covering whips, chains, leather masks, personal electrocution devices, and similar accoutrement. DOM CASE LAW.


Sutsy 10:11 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
andrew 10:12 AM  

Never mind the puzzle, another HE/HIM constructor? Will Shortz just HEM/HAW at this HOR/ROR?

Deb Sweeney 10:14 AM  

Man, I have been hearing my kids rant about the evils of DLC for years, so that fill was actually helpful for me to solve the stack. Had "peels" instead of "zests" for one down so that took a while to rework. "Sessions of congress" was fun.

Anonymous 10:19 AM  

I thought this was a fun one, so I’m pretty surprised to see so much complaining! Anyone who has played a video game in the past 10 years or has contact with anyone who does should have been exposed to the concept of DLC in real life. My parents are in their 70s and would probably know it, because they bought my kid DLC as a present. It’s part of current pop culture. Not niche at all.

Anonymous 10:24 AM  

I didn't love this puzzle either, but there were a few clever clues. However, I really thought Rex would tear it apart a lot more than he did. I don't think DLC was terrible, considering how many people are into gaming these days. However, I thought foam party was made up until I googled it and found that it was real. And I really wanted Festivus (for the rest of us) to fit into "feast for holiday orphans." :)

Newboy 10:26 AM  


Still enjoyed it.

Anonymous 10:28 AM  

Glad to see other folks liked this puzzle. I guess I was on the constructor's wavelength as it was wooshier for me than most Saturdays. Loved some of the misdirects, especially Keep. Good job Mr. Vu.

R Duke 10:29 AM  

I figured 37A started with “food,” so confidently dropped in “whirlpool” for 4D. First time I’ve been happy to see SANSA.

Anonymous 10:34 AM  

I’d call it medium to hard. Slow to get started, then really zipped along until the utter slog that was the NW. Is ZESTS even a real word? Throw it in with GoT trivia, an actor in a movie I haven’t seen and HRT — that was a hard finish.

DF44 10:37 AM  

I can't help but wonder what Anon @ 8:37AM could possibly mean by "normalize" - as if trans people undergoing HRT isn't normal already! I can unfortunately only think of one reason to use that word - and suggest a clue replacement to remove trans representation from the grid - but of course I'm open to more innocent suggestions.


I enjoyed today's - it played fairly easy. ZOOM????/ZESTS figured out quickly in the top left, HRT to get the latter half of 1A, and we were fairly off to the races - biggest issue for me was PASSon before fixing to PASSUP. Definitely on the constructor's wavelength - that, or my return to coffee has simply worked!

Adored the central stack in particular, and actually loved seeing DLC in the grid - it's an in-language phrase I'd expect most people under 40 to recognise, and it's no less inferrable than many other ancient partials and anagrams. Echoing those saying that the focus of today's blog on a debut that has made many people happy feels like a pout over not getting some three-letter fill instantly. Put simply: You'll live!

Joe B 10:38 AM  

The Hamburglar canonically steals cheeseburgers not BIGMAC's. I am thoroughly disgusted by this grievous oversight and shall write many stern letters.

egsforbreakfast 10:38 AM  

SETI. Is that a SECTOR what? I think they should first see if they can find any signs of terrestrial intelligence. Not so easy to do these days.

PINUPS are great, but if you want something with a little ass in it, you'll go with PASSUP.

We're planning to vacation in La France next year. It should be quite LETRIP.

OSHEA = Start of the Star Spangled Banner after too many fruity Daiquiris.

Sometimes the coincidences are just mind blowing. Today we have some FRIENDSGIVING a FOAMPARTY.

I liked the cluing today, especially the flashback to RUN DLC. What a groundbreaking hip hop group that was. And crossing it with FOOD COMMUNIST! Hate to see vermin like that in the puzzle, but well worth it. Oh....I see.......never mind. Thank you Hoang-Kim Vu (but not Emily Litella) for a real fun Saturday.

Fun_CFO 10:40 AM  

Ok Saturday. mainly here today to echo the hilarity in Rex’s DLC rant, followed by his “Everyone (give or take) is familiar with Scylla & Charybdis…”. Oh, ok, sure.

Anonymous 10:43 AM  

Video game DLC has been around for 20+ years and it’s definitely in the lexicon

Anonymous 10:49 AM  

Easiest Saturday puzzle I’ve ever done. Happened to know all the weirder ones (DLC, SANSA, MAELSTROM, etc) so the only corner that gave me any pause was the bottom left. I guess this is the level of culture, pop it otherwise, that I operate at! :)

Beezer 10:49 AM  

I was able to finish the puzzle without cheating and, of course, that can make you predisposed to a puzzle but there was a lot of clever clueing in this too! It was my usual Saturday start where I think I’m never going to be able to crack it, then you get some INSIGHTS and things start to whoosh a bit. I can’t get too het up about DLC. I guess it was particularly offensive because it was in the middle? My tactic was to ignore it and that worked out well.

@Joe DiPinto…I thought the same thing about OCEAN, and I was willing to consider the Mediterranean an ocean. Omg. That Poseidon was REALLY ticked off at Odysseus! I pulled up the Odyssey route (you probably referred to). I read The Odyssey in a “children’s” version (still thick), then later in my 20s. I had always pictured them wandering aimlessly in the Aegean Sea…no wonder he took 20 years to get back to Ithaca! Of many things, one thing I learned reading the book was how to pronounce Penelope after I had said “Penna-lope” to my older sister who promptly burst out laughing. Ah, good memories…

RooMonster 10:54 AM  

Hi @Anon 10:19!
I think you posted this under the wrong person. I didn't say a word about DLC in my comment. πŸ‘πŸ˜

Hey, it happens!

RooMonster At Least Blame Me For Something I Said Guy

Nancy 10:58 AM  

I'm not up on my Charybdis and the fact that not one but two clues depended on my knowledge of him/her/it/them made me think I'd have to look it up. But it turned out I didn't. There were SECTORs of the puzzle I found quite a bit harder.

I've never heard of FRIENDSGIVING, but I love the idea.

Is a FOAM PARTY like a beer party? I've never heard of it. And CLAW GAME was one big "Huh?"

It's taken me a year of xwords just to learn DEETS. And now we have "the 411"??? Good grief.

There's a "Hamburglar"?

Even in areas I'm well-versed in, like liquor, I couldn't for the life of me come up with FRUITIER without many crosses. I was thinking STRONGER. Or SWEETER. Or SOURER. Or LIMIER. Or COLDER. The -ITIER was driving me crazy.

The YIPS isn't just a phenomenon in gymnastics. In golf it means that you tank on very short putts. In tennis, it means that you can't control your toss when serving.

I nominate TRYSTS for one of the 10 best clues of the year.

A puzzle with excellent cluing and a lot of variety. I enjoyed it.

Anonymous 10:59 AM  


Andrew Z. 11:03 AM  

I agree. Being a gamer, I knew DLC immediately but had no idea about HRT.

Tom T 11:09 AM  

one of those Friday/Saturday puzzles that felt undoable 5 to 10 minutes in, but then really went whoosh whoosh from there for a finish (26 minutes) well below my Saturday average. Delighted to get the Happy Music when I filled the last square.

Didn't know DLC, but wasn't even aware of it until I read Rex, because the three stack fell into place in a whoosh.

Anonymous 11:12 AM  

Zipped right through it today.
I do have to laugh at Rex’s rant about DLC when I’m assuming a lot of solvers didn’t even notice (or remember) it. The crosses were all very inferable.
I’ve never really heard of CLAW GAME, I’ve always referred to it as a claw machine. But, whatever.

Carola 11:18 AM  

Ultra-challenging at the start - I needed to give myself a pep talk ("You can finish a Saturday puzzle!"), in order to persevere beyond the scattered BEANIE, LEDE, STir, ios, and the apt OOPS for the latter two. Eventually FRIENDSGIVING came into view and gave me grist to grind through the rest of the grid. I enjoyed racking my brain over the clues, with a couple of "triumph" (SALAD, LEDE, guessing the kite was a bird), happy to finish.

Do-overs: STir before STEP, ios before CPU, raceS before STATS, opticAL GAG.
Treats: MAELSTROM, TALON x CLAW, the clue for TRYSTS.

Bob Mills 11:28 AM  

Easy medium? Are you kidding? With all that bizarre cluing and obscure subjects? Wow! I was killed by the NW and SE sections, and took forever to get the rest.

CLAW GAME? What is that? FOAM PARTY? DLC? DEETS? Is this a new language?

Anonymous 11:34 AM  

πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ Thanks for the fun read!!!

GILL I. 11:36 AM  

This is exactly what I expect on a Saturday; it starts with me being blown away to another planet.
Let me talk about Charybdis. I thought I knew some Greek mythology gods and goddesses but I forgot this one. I was able to get OCEAN at 3D thanks to ESCAROLE, TEAL and SANSA. Ok, so mind wanders to sea creatures. Poseidon? No. My favorite Kraken? No. Then thinking what might they'd have done. I got complicated in my mind wanderings.
I hate to leave some of the NW blank. Persist, persist. Cheat! I couldn't spell MAELSTROM even if I had a dictionary in front of me. Good gravy. Then ZOOM HOST? I don't even know what that is. AM I living in a cave?
So at least the middle section has to do with FOOD and drinks. I started thinking 37A would start with a cook.'s a FOOD something or other. Critic? No. The downs that would've given me a leg up were no help. I wanted eights for that slice of pie thing SECTOR and I wouldn't know a pair of ADIDAS from Keds. Should I cheat again? Sure...why not. I did and it felt good.
I was pretty sure 33A was FRIENDSGIVING. Not 100%, but pen it in anyway. Then...what the hell is a festivity with a ton of bubbles.....!!! I had the FO part. I don't want to cheat again. RUM YIPS with a
TRYST had me sniffing out a PARTY. Could it be a FOAM PARTY? Ay dios mio. It is.
The south section was easier for me. PAUSE at 53A. Why is SOAP some makeup at wet bars? I thought a wet bar is one of those small little areas in your house where you can keep your RUM and some FRUITIER drinks.... What does SOAP have to do with it....I only could think of SOTS. Erase, erase.
Finished up with INSIGHTS. Indeed. Got out of my cave and waved my planet goodbye.
I really liked this one. I did a lot of CLAWing; I learned new things that I will forget... and lastly...I will never, ever, go to a FOAM PARTY.

Kate Esq 11:51 AM  

Very easy for me. Once I got OCEAN and OSHEA, ZOOM was easy, and ESCAROLE and SHEET PAN practically entered themselves. Which means MAELSTROM was very gettable, because how many words begin with MAE? I Liked FRIENDSGIVING and DRAMATIC PAUSE. I think the lack of quote clues really helped this feel swooshy for me. I ended up with a time closer to my Tuesday average.

johnk 12:01 PM  

Worked from the SE up today, ending in the NW, where I had initially looked at the 1A clue and said to myself, "Oh crap, this is one of those unknown-to-me websites the kids are using." I slapped my forehead when I returned and immediately saw the ZEST/ZOOM HOST.
Nice to be able to complete a Saturday without cheating.

Masked and Anonymous 12:02 PM  

Not one of my faves, mostly due to too many no-know entries, at our house. Always good to learn new stuff, but sheesh, Miss Sansa -- also always nice to have a fightin chance to finish the puz with one nanosecond left standin.

No idea what a Charybdis is. Cross its two charrin entries with no-knows such as: ZOOMHOST. ESCAROLE. SANSA. OSHEA. HRT. Then STIR [had that instead of STEP]. Result … The NW OOPSies.

Did like the three middle longballs, which came fairly easily, by comparison. And always a pleasure to see the Jaws of Themelessness in the puzgrid layout.

staff weeject pick: DLC. Coulda been almost any three letters, and woulda fooled m&e. Nice illegal Roman numeral meat, tho. [btw: Official M&A Help Desk Dictionary says: "Doctor of Civil Law".]

Thanx, Mr. Vu dude. Nice hardy collection of fruit foam food salad.

Masked & Anonymo4Us

p.s. Last nite's Schlockfest November classics entries: "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" & "Dracula" [Lugosi version]. Two sets of thUmbsUp. Neither of us nodded off, even right after waaay overeatin at the tapas bar.


JC66 12:06 PM  


I emailed you my Embedding Cheat Sheet. Hope it helps.

jb129 12:07 PM  

Gotta agree with @Darren & Norm. They hated it & so did I.

Nancy from Chicago 12:13 PM  

Surprised that so many were boggled by HRT - I'd be willing to bet that few women were. "Transition" doesn't have to mean changing from one sex to another; it can also mean transitioning to menopause and HRT has been used to alleviate menopause-related symptoms (hot flashes etc.) for decades. It's also been controversial because the medical community keeps going back and forth on whether it should be recommended or not (for some women it is a lifesaver but it also raises the risk of some forms of cancer). That acronym was far easier for me than DLC but since both were crossed fairly I didn't mind either very much (other than just not caring too much for acronyms in puzzles generally).

Juanita 12:18 PM  

Well, I think KEEP is a specific part of a castle, not a synonym for Castle.

Masked and Anonymous 12:28 PM  

p.s. Actually, the dictionary reversed two letters in DLC, in desperation, assumin M&A had erred in typin in DCL. sooo … never mind!

But, in retro-spect, the Dictionary didn't have HEHIM in it either, and tried to convert it to HEE-HAW, so I shoulda been more suspicious.


Alec M. 12:50 PM  

Yup, DLC was a total gimme, as it was to the millions of people who have ever played a modern video game. What a strange rant.

okanaganer 12:54 PM  

This went from: terribly hard / ungettable, to: get an answer here and another over there, to: OMG done!

Remember Scylla and Charybdis from school, but never which is which. I got 3 down which helped me get 4 down (after WHIRLPOOL didn't work), but I think it was lazy cluing because absolutely no need to shoehorn OCEAN into a clue like that.

Yes DLC is pretty icky but as others have noted, very gettable from crosses so no huge complaint from me. My take: if you're not a gamer or acquainted with one you probably ignore any articles about gaming, so you've likely never heard of it, unlike HRT which pops up everywhere.

[Spelling Bee: Fri 0, Thurs -2! (bad day; knew both words)]

Alex 12:55 PM  

Not easy-medium for me, either. Although I generally got there. My particular Waterloo was the intersection of Brown-y points and pie slice. Had no idea what Brown-y points might be (Brown University? Something about suntanning?) and thought the piece of pie was a vector. So that hurt.

Anonymous 12:56 PM  

Same for me. A personal best for a Saturday I think although I don’t keep track. I’m doing a little happy dance because usually I have to Google something on a Saturday and Rex, etal. Are saying no problems… HRT and DLC were equal woes for me, but crosses were too solid to trip…

Anonymous 12:59 PM  

Lotta dudes mad today. Lot. O’. Dudes.

bocamp 1:09 PM  

Thx, Hoang-Kim; an excellent, challenging puz! 😊


Still working on the final cell at the 'Radicchio / treatment' cross. In 'incubation mode'.

Otherwise, a chewy feast; liking it a lot! :)
On to Steve Mossberg's Sat. Stumper 🀞, with Balton & Stewart's NYT acrostic on deck for tm.
Peace πŸ•Š πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¦ ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness ~ Freudenfreude & a DAP to all πŸ‘Š πŸ™

Anonymous 1:26 PM  

My gamer kids have ensured that I know what DLC is (they are always asking for money for DLC)

ghostoflectricity 1:32 PM  

Pleasant, and moderately easy solve for a Saturday.

burtonkd 1:35 PM  

Easy medium that looked hard off the bat, but filled itself right in, maybe because I was interrupted and came back fresh.

Timely for Thanksgiving week with FRIENDSGIVING, ESCAROLE, FOODCOLUMNIST, SHEETPAN, SALAD, RUM, (hopefully not BIGMACs), ZESTS, FRUIT..., ...SALT (turkey dryrub), pie slices & spirits in the clues.

This puzzle deserves better than the full-screen WOTD and 2 paragraph DLC opening rant and continuous callbacks. While not everyone's cup of tea, video games are now a bigger industry than major league sports or Hollywood. Certainly as fair a clue as Run___ asking for DMC, which I'm sure would elicit a pass. Hmmm... where would be a good place to put a poor 3 letter clue? Not first or last, not as a bridge between sections, not crossing anything notable, dead center seems as unobtrusive as anywhere.

Turns out I wasn't punished for not knowing Charybdis off the top of my head - agree that the twofer clues raised an eyebrow.

Sailor 1:41 PM  

@ Juanita 12:18 PM - I agree. That bothered me more than HRT & DLC.

Pete 1:42 PM  

I got angry at the puzzle twice - once 110% my fault, the other, well, probably the puzzles. I plunked down [V]ECTOR for a piece of pie, and swore about how the NYT puzzle sucks at science and math. I searched an eternity for my mistake, then noticed that it was SECTOR, not vECTOR.

The second was HRT. The 'R' HRT is replacement, as in replacing estrogen in a woman going through peri-menopause, or testosterone in a man whose body no longer produces it, probably from getting kicked in the gonads for teasing his wife who's going through peri-menopause about her hot flashes and mood swings. If that's the transition they're referencing, the 'transition' joke wasn't necessary or funny. If they're talking about gender transitioning, it's not GAT, Gender Affirming Therapy, not HRT.

bocamp 1:46 PM  


Yay, got it! The 'R' just sounded best for ESCAROLE, and was intuitive as 'Replacement' or 'Reversal' for 'transition'. Also intuited the 'T' for 'therapy'. No idea what the 'H' might be, other than Human. Now I know both the leafy veggie and the 'Hormone Replacement Therapy'.

Hands up for pregnant PAUSE (hi @Visho (8:22 AM).

Peace πŸ•Š πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¦ ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness ~ Freudenfreude & a DAP to all πŸ‘Š πŸ™

Anonymous 2:36 PM  

Ditto. Both are fine.

It's pretty funny that Rex describes DLC (which is extremely common lingo for modern gaming) as exclusionary, but that HRT is "a thing anybody might have heard of", and that "Everyone (give or take) is familiar with Scylla & Charybdis".

I would wager that the people familiar with the term DLC way outnumber the people readily familiar with Scylla & Charybdis. But it all seems fair to me.

MetroGnome 2:43 PM  

DRY SALT is a "technique"? No, it's a SUBSTANCE, or maybe even a MATERIAL, but a physical thing is not a "technique." Would we call TURPENTINE a "technique" for diluting paint?

jberg 3:04 PM  

Really tough for me, I had to go take a long walk halfway through, and still struggled when I got back. The big problem: I got the obvious at 37-A, and put in cOOkbOokmaker when neither author nor writer would fit. You can see the problem -- all three of those Os are in the right place, which made me hold on to the mistake for far too long. FRUITIER finally set me on the right path.

Say DLC to me and I'll respond "Democratic Leadership Council," the elite group (including Bill Clinton and Barack Obama) that worked to move the Democratic Party to the right in order to overcome the Reagan legacy. They dissolved long ago, so you youngsters might not get it. My gaming is pretty much limited to online solitaire, which does sometimes involve downloadable content, but I've never heard it called that (till now).

HRT has been in the news a lot as Republican-majority legislators try to outlaw its use for minors.

What really shows my age is that not only did I know all about Charybdis, but was astounded to realize here that not everyone is. Used to be we all learned the basic plot of the Odyssey, even if we never read it. There were movies! And the episode is pretty dramatic. I guess neither Warner nor Disney own the rights, so they make movies about other things.

Anonymous 3:27 PM  

Cheering alphabet-soup gaming lingo while confidently asserting that a mythological creature so famous it gave its name to a common metaphor is “exclusionary” = {chef’s kiss}. “Who’s ever heard of the Odyssey?! No one, that’s who!” Perfect. Zero notes.

kitshef 3:40 PM  

@M&A 12:02 - Which version of Body Snatchers?

Re: DLC. I have two sisters, a brother-in-law, three nieces and a nephew under 40 (well ... one just turned 40), none of whom knew DLC. Again, I think it is perfectly fair Saturday game. But perhaps not so much age-dependent as hobby-dependent.

Masked and Anonymous 4:20 PM  

@kitshef: 1956 original version of Body Snatchers.
With Sam Peckinpah appearin in a real minor role, as a meter reader. He did have one spoken line, at least.

M&A Schlock Flick Desk

Carola 5:39 PM  

@Stumper fans - My second week in a row of finishing in one session. Trying not to get cocky.

Anonymous 5:52 PM  

Never heard of Charybdis… but the crosses made it pretty easy to figure out. In general a rather easy Saturday.

bocamp 6:21 PM  

@Carola (5:39 PM)

Congrats; that's awesome! 🌟

I'm well over 2 hrs. in and only 1/3 finished. Not even sure about what I've got so far. 🀞
Peace πŸ•Š πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¦ ~ Compassion ~ Tolerance ~ Kindness ~ Freudenfreude & a DAP to all πŸ‘Š πŸ™

Anonymous 6:41 PM  

I’m a 42-year-old corporate lawyer and mom (so, I’m pretty well educated, not remarkably young, and outside of certain stereotyped demographics), and I found DLC to be a gimme. Meanwhile, I had to google what a Charybdis is.


Rex, you seem extremely worked up about a single piece of trivia that tripped you up. For many of us who do a lot of crossword puzzles, there’s ALWAYS stuff that’s so far out of our wheelhouse that we scratch our heads wondering “who EVEN knows this?” Chill, my fellow middle aged friend.

Anonymous 6:42 PM  

Just to be clear, Republicans are trying to outlaw (either literally or effectively) HRT for more than minors…

Kid Phoneme 6:47 PM  

Saw the clue for DLC early on and then never had to consider it again due to whoosh-iness. I thought Rex was going to be appreciating whoosh and relatively open grid today.

@Joe Dipinto -- you're right, Charybdis is nowhere near an OCEAN. That clue is just wrong.

(Also, I never caught the second line of that song; I'm plain old slack-jawed Scylla and Charybdis have been in my life so dang long without my awareness).

Breakfast Tester 7:32 PM  

Where DLC occurs in the grid makes all of this discourse moot. That entry is as inconsequential as a 3-letter entry can be. It's in the middle of a stack of three 13-letter answers that the solver needs to figure out in order to successfully solve the puzzle, and those three long entries are not that difficult. They certainly don't hinge on DLC. Whether or not DLC is gettable all on its own will make a difference to absolutely nobody!

If 35D had no clue at all, the puzzle's difficulty would be exactly the same, despite all the consternation.


dgd 9:31 PM  

I tried to put Sicily in at 4 down but ran out of space. Of course ocean became inevitable. I thought it was an odd answer when I put it in. Glad I wasn’t the only one.
Close enough for crosswords?

Anonymous 9:38 PM  

FWIW I got all the crosses of OSHEA. But even if I didn’t know the first A in SANSA. OSHEA is the only option. That’s not an unheard of proper name. I know of no other spelling.

Anonymous 9:45 PM  


Anonymous 9:57 PM  

Unknown names tend to be more inferable than three letter abbreviations. The letters in names aren’t as random. I had no clue as to OSHEA but pattern recognition helped me get to it No one has pointed out an added level of difficulty to DLC The clue is plural so I had an S in the 3rd block until late in the solve.

Anonymous 11:12 PM  

@Fun_CFO had the exact same reaction and glad i wasn't alone, lol. actually cracked quite a big smile IRL reading that at the end.
i'm not a gamer, but my partner is and many people in life are...and i also watch a lot of twitch so DLC was a gimme for me. it's also, as someone else mentioned, a huge issue in a massive industry so it is very "in the language", as they say. i'd love to see one of those "man on the streets" type gags where you ask 100 people what DLC is and what "charybdis" is (are?) and see what you get. i laughed at FOAM PARTY too because that's very dated but very funny and well known to me. overall a rare wheelhouse saturday and i was only off my PB by fifteen seconds.

Anonymous 12:23 AM  

Just wanted to say that I really enjoyed this puzzle! Not only because it was my new Saturday PR, but also because so many entries just vibed for me, and just about everything in the grid felt interesting and/or fresh. Impressive construction, and super fun to solve (for me at least!) :)

Anonymous 12:48 AM  

ZOOMPOST is definitely a good answer and would cross with PRT (instead of HRT). PRT is the abbreviation for Personal Rapid Transit, which is could be considered “treatment for someone in transition.” I admit it’s a stretch, but so are a lot of the clues.

Anonymous 10:33 AM  

Same! We seem to be in the minority

pdplot 10:58 PM  

What is he/him?
Not a clue.

react js 2:01 AM  

Easy medium that looked hard off the bat, but filled itself right in, maybe because I was interrupted and came back fresh.
javascripttraining in hyderabad

Anonymous 3:00 PM  

I'm with you on "foam party," but DLC really is a pretty common part of the parlance for a massive part of society.

Anonymous 3:01 PM  

Pronoun preference

Anonymous 10:35 PM  

I just kept thinking "strait," glad I wasn't the only one

Anonymous 7:51 PM  

When I saw your "easy/medium" rating, I considered giving up my pencil. 😏 I found this puzzle to be ultra challenging. Ah, well ...

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